Suspend postal ballot voting in army and police bases if representatives from political parties continue to be banned from monitoring the process – test-case of Election Commission’s authority, independence, legitimacy and integrity
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): In a written reply in Parliament to the PAS MP for Jeli, Mohd Apandi Mohamad on Thursday, the Prime Minister’s Department said representatives from political parties will not be allowed to monitor the postal votes coming from the numerous military and police bases in the country and called on all parties to be “confident and satisfied” with the process.
The reply from the Prime Minister’s Department said the armed forces rejected the proposal on the grounds that officials from the Election Commission are present to ensure that the voting process adhered to the rules and regulations. It said not only opposition representatives but those from the government are also barred from monitoring the postal ballot voting. (Malaysiakini 26.9.03)
On Monday, the Prime Minister’s Department will be the first Ministry to begin the three-day Ministerial winding-up of the 2004 Budget debate, and MPs should establish whether the reply given to Apandi is the latest and final position of the military and police barring representatives of political parties and candidates from monitoring the postal ballot voting in the military and police bases.
This is because it was only two weeks ago that the Election Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, said in a wide-ranging interview with Malaysiakini that the Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was still mulling on the repeated requests by political parties to have their representatives monitor postal votes in army camps.
Rashid had said he had requested for access to be given to all political parties in army camps to monitor postal votes in the general election but he has yet to get a response from the minister.
"I have been agitating for some change. I have been proposing changes, some went through. The usual request from (political) parties is that they want to monitor postal votes. They were doubtful what went on in the (army) camps," he said.
Rashid said when the opposition parties first raised the issue to him, he managed to get the Defence Ministry’s approval to have officials from the commission to monitor the postal voting process in army camps.
"But of course the political parties do not trust the Election Commision. they want to go in to see for themselves. So I brought it to the government, I went to see (defence minister) Najib Razak who said that he will bring up to the higher authority but until today there is no answer yet."
Parliament and the nation should be told on Monday whether the last word by the “higher authority” on the proposal that representatives of political parties and candidates be allowed to monitor postal votes for the next general election has been given, and if so, by which “higher authority” and when.
If the government has decided to reject the Election Commission’s proposal, then it will become a test case of the Election Commission’s authority, independence, legitimacy and integrity as to whether it is prepared to exercise its Constitutional mandate and powers to conduct free, fair and clean elections by suspending postal ballot voting in army and police bases indefinitely so long as representatives of political parties and candidates are barred from military and police bases to monitor postal voting. This is because the Election Commission should suspend military and police postal voting unless the Election Commission and all contesting political parties are convinced and satisfied of adequate safeguards to ensure a fair voting process.
There were about 151,000 police postal votes and 83,000 army postal votes in the last general election. If the Election Commission suspends postal voting in army and police bases because of the lack of transparency and lack of safeguards to ensure free, fair and clean postal voting, then no single military or police postal vote could be cast in the next general election.
The excuse that the presence of the Election Commission officials are adequate to ensure the fairness and integrity of postal ballot process is completely unacceptable, as going by the same logic, there would be no need for representatives of political parties and candidates to monitor the voting process on Polling Day in the polling stations throughout the country, as everything should be left in the hands of the Election Commission!
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman